Prom: Helping or Hurting Our Kids?

By Michael Tahany
English Teacher, Kellenberg Memorial High School

During the spring of 2004, with the run up to the Senior Prom, there was a rash of what I would like to call "shakedowns" at Kellenberg Memorial High School, in Uniondale, New York. Students were demanding money from other students for deposits on houses rented in the Hamptons , an affluent area of Long Island that's considered the destination spot for young people in this area. These demands were to the tune of thousands of dollars. Apparently many of the parents, in full support of theirs children's "right" to celebrate, had signed $20,000 leases that had to be paid. These two and three day rentals were supposed to be the highlight of the prom.

As a Catholic school in the Marianist tradition, this excessive spending was the polar opposite of what we were trying to teach our students in their most formative years. To know that our celebration of catholic education, the prom, had become a springboard to three days of debauchery was unbearable. We encouraged students not to buy into the cultural obsession of partying until you drop, puking to feel you were cool, and having sex with whomever you pleased. We told them not to give in to the pressure of buying $800 prom dresses, $5,000 party buses, and $20,000 Hampton houses. Things were clearly out of control with the decadent and irresponsible prom and social culture. So, we simply stopped it. I say simply because it was simple. We just said "ENOUGH!".

When people heard that we cancelled the prom they were astonished. It made the national headlines, and every morning news trucks was here trying to talk to our kids. Parents were greatly disappointed. Mothers, whose daughters had been waiting for years for prom, were aghast. “How could we do this to their children?” How could we? How could we not is more like it. Parents send their children to Catholic schools to be raised in a Catholic culture. One that is very different from pop culture.

We teach integrity, compassion, faithfulness, and the example of sacrifice and love as explained through Jesus Christ. What does pop culture teach? Nothing. It doesn't teach; it rewards. It rewards lavish and irresponsible behavior. It worships hedonism and flash. It corrupts morality and encourages the self. Is that how parents want their children raised? I think not. Is that how young people want to raise their children? I think not. In actuality, this decision was a long time coming. It just took a $20,000 Hampton house to push it over the edge!

Michael Tahany has taught Senior English at Kellenberg Memorial High School for 12 years. He also serves as a Guidance Counselor, College Placement Counselor, and a lacrosse and football coach.

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